5/31/10 – 10:45 pm

Tonight is our last night in the hotel in Aghvar. I have been sick this afternoon, including headache, chills, and diarrhea. I’m not sure what the source is but it’s probably from running yesterday afternoon and this morning without being fully acclimated to the environment.
The trip here was rigorous, but parts of it were fun. It started poorly when our charter bus drove all around DC to get to the airport. It had no AC so we all got very sweaty. Then we had to stand in line in a huge cluster at the Air Austria ticketing gate. We barely all made it on the flight.
I was a group leader, which included collecting money, checking to see that my group was there, and tipping the bus driver. The flight to Austria was 8 hours long, by far my longest. It was okay but I was not able to sleep very well. I was very lucky because my Mp3 player slipped out at the gate but the staff on Austrian Air had it (I think another PCT found it)! Then we had a 14 hour layover in Vienna. When we got to the airport in Vienna, there was no PC staff with us. I had the strongest feeling of, “what next?” PC arranged for us to have day hotels (2 separate ones since our group is 58 people). We got to the hotel and dropped off our bags. I took a shower and then headed out with a couple guys to the train stop. We were in a small town outside Vienna, which was about a 30 min train ride from the city center. After clumsily buying tickets, our group was off. Downtown Vienna was very nice. There are bikes everywhere. No building is taller than 6 or 7 stories. We walked down to the main Platz which had St. Stephen’s cathedral. When I walked in my breath was instantly taken away. The church was enormous and very ornate. We then saw another cathedral (smaller but more ornate), got a world famous torte at Hotel Sachre, and then got some greasy street sausages while walking around the rest of the city. I was able to use my meager German skills for the first time in my life, which was cool.
I then took another shower upon returning and headed out early to the airport with the first group. We didn’t want to repeat the previous day’s error. We ended up waiting for about 5 hours at the airport. The flight to Yerevan left at 10:40 and arrived at 4:45 am local time. It was not a great flight because I was very tired at this point and could not sleep. Plus flying into the dark country of Armenia was kind of scary. When we arrived at the airport we made our way through a long queue to get our passports stamped. The man who stamped mine was very somber, until he handed me the passport back with a large smile saying, “Welcome to Armenia.”
We then waited at baggage claim to gather our belongings. Mine were pretty beat up considering they were brand new. Then we made our way through “Customs” which really was just a big hallway. There were other volunteers waiting for us and pointing us in the right direction, which was very cool. We stepped outside into a mysterious loading dock kind of area with all kinds of European cars, new and old, zipping around amid the buzz of the Armenians who were present. There was a large box truck that we loaded our baggage onto. We then boarded a charter bus that would take us to the temple in Yerevan for our welcoming. The bus ride was okay, but I was feeling really tired/sick from so much travel. I tried to hang on while we made it to the temple. There we met the country director and some other staff. We climbed around the temple and had a photo op. Then we got back in the bus to drive to Charentsavan.
The drive through Yerevan was very interesting. The bus driver was blaring Armenian music while we cruised through the heart of Yerevan. It really felt like we arrived. The person next to me said, “It’s not just like ‘we’re here’, we’re fucking here.” The city was a mix of old soviet buildings and some Euro charm. It was very hilly which made for some good views.
We got to the hotel in Aghveran after about 45 minutes or so.


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